Sales of existing homes jumped 2.9 percent in February, an "encouraging" sign, according to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR). "We're not expecting a notable gain in existing-home sales until the second half of this year, but the improvement is another sign that the market is stabilizing," he said in a statement. The trade group released the numbers this morning.

Overall, the increase in existing-home sales represents a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 5.03 million units for February 2008. While an improvement over January's numbers, the figures are nearly 24 percent lower that they were in February 2007.

Not surprisingly, housing inventories remain high, at a 9.6-month supply. However, that is slightly lower than January, when inventories stood at a 10.2-month supply.

On the pricing side, the national median home price slipped 8.2 percent year-over-year, to $195,900. The NAR attributes that to greater slowdowns in more-expensive housing markets, which it says contributes to a "downward pull" on the national median home price, which includes all housing types.

The median price for existing single-family homes also fell by 8.7 percent compared to February 2007, to $193,900 last month.